Petroleum News asked Danny Davis, president of Escopeta Oil, the company with a jack-up rig en route to Cook Inlet for exploration drilling this summer, for his response to the beluga whale Endangered Species Act listing and critical habitat designation.
Davis said Escopeta does everything it can to work with conservationists and others to make everything happen in a positive way.
“We’re going to have whale watchers. We’re going to have sound buoys. We’re going to do everything in the world we can to work along with the agencies to protect every beluga whale we run across. We love them, we believe in them and we want to protect them and do everything to see them flourish,” Davis said.
Davis also commented that to the best of his knowledge no beluga whale had been ever been injured by an oil industry operation during the 60-year history of the Cook Inlet oil industry.
Buccaneer Energy Ltd., the Australian company that is partnering with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to also bring a jack-up drilling rig to Cook Inlet issued a statement on April 11 downplaying the likely impact on the company’s operations of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Cook Inlet beluga whale critical habitat designation.
The company said that people had anticipated the critical habitat designation since the listing of the beluga whales in 2008.
“Buccaneer planned its Cook Inlet exploration activities in anticipation of the critical habitat designation and does not anticipate delays in its planned exploration drilling program in the Cook Inlet,” wrote company director Dean Gallegos in Buccaneer’s statement.
Gallegos said that drilling is not precluded from the critical habitat region and that Buccaneer is taking several steps to minimize impacts on marine mammals, including beluga whales. Those steps include the implementation of safety zones around project activities, to ensure appropriate noise reductions when marine mammals approach the industrial operations, he wrote.